Although Damiano Cunego's performance at last Sunday's Amstel Gold Race was no surprise given his track record in past Ardennes Classics, it appeared that a recent bout of gastroenteritis didn't prevent him from riding amongst the favourites in the finale.
Having stated before the race that he was unsure of his form given his illness, Cunego finished sixth in Valkenberg. He won the event in 2008 and despite missing the podium it was a strong performance and he now goes into today's Flèche Wallonne as one of the contenders for the crown.
The Lampre-Farnese Vini rider is anticipating another shot at the podium, having obviously recovered from his upset digestive system."I was satisfied with my performance in Amstel Gold Race," said Cunego. "I knew I wasn't in top form, but determination was needed to battle at the head of the race. In the past two days I've felt better and my mood is growing, thanks to the confidence of all my teammates."
Cunego will be joined by Matteo Bono, Francesco Gavazzi, David Loosli, Manuele Mori, Daniele Pietropolli, Daniele Righi and Alessandro Spezialetti in a Lampre-Farnese Vini squad centred around Cunego's chances.
"The approach to this important event has been good," said directeur sportif Brent Copeland after the team trained yesterday. "Monday was a day to recover from the fatigue of a long journey to the Netherlands and the Amstel Gold Race, but today we made a profitable two-and-a-half hour workout.
Cunego finished third in last year's edition of La Flèche Wallonne, a race he described as "charming but ruthless; the Mur de Huy doesn't make allowances for those who do not have legs full of energy: I am aware of the fierce competition, I hope to have positive signs in the race to try to achieve a performance as interesting as the Amstel," he added.
Copeland is acutely aware of Cunego's ability to be a contender this afternoon in Huy. "The Flèche Wallonne is a race in which Cunego has proven to be competitive: the aftermath of his gastroenteritis has departed and his morale is growing, driven also by a better performance on Sunday. The whole team is motivated and focused - the same for Gavazzi, who is in good condition."